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Space Force: The Real Loser From Yesterday’s Election Results?

If the Space Force goes down before it ever got up on its feet, that's probably for the best.

Eugen Dobric/Dreamstime.comEugen Dobric/Dreamstime.comLast night's midterm election results may have been hyped up a great deal, but there actually weren't a whole lot of surprises. Democrats took back control of the House, as most pundits thought they would, while Republicans—again, as predicted—kept the Senate.

Reason's Peter Suderman explained how the "biggest shock" was that things "went more or less as expected," while Eric Boehm argued that "the return of divided government" is actually a good thing. President Donald Trump may have boasted of a "very Big Win," but in reality, neither Republicans nor Democrats can claim total victory.

That said, one of the biggest losers from Election Day could be Trump's proposed Space Force. In case you're not familiar with the idea, Trump announced in June the creation of a Space Force as a co-equal sixth branch of the military meant to project U.S. dominance into, well, space.

In July, I reported on how the Pentagon was moving forward with the idea, even though Congress had yet to approve it. Fast-forward almost four months, and Congress still hasn't authorized a Space Force, though the Defense Department is supposed to send Congress a plan in February for how the new branch would work.

But with Democrats about to hold a majority in the House of Representatives, the Space Force might be put on hold.

"Space Force is the victim of having been an idea advanced by President Trump, so I don't even know that it will get a real hearing on the merits in the House," Thomas Spoehr, the director of the Center for National Defense at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the Washington Examiner.

As Military.com notes, Rep. Adam Smith (D–Wash.) is likely to take over chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee from Rep. Mac Thornberry (R–Texas). Thornberry hasn't publicly supported or opposed the Space Force (he wants more information first). Smith, however has been a vocal opponent of the idea.

"I am concerned that [Trump's] proposal would create additional costly military bureaucracy at a time when we have limited resources for defense and critical domestic priorities, and I do not believe it is the best way to advance U.S. national security," Smith said in September. "We must do a better job of dealing with space as a national security priority. I will continue to work toward a smarter, more effective approach."

Smith does support the creation of a Space Corps that's part of the Air Force—a kind of compromise solution that Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thinks Democratic control of the House could mean more of. "We are going to see that more and more when it comes to defense issues with Dem control," Harrison told Investor's Business Daily. "How do you pay for these things, looking at a fiscally constrained budget?"

A separate Space Force, meanwhile, would indeed come at a high price. A September Pentagon memo estimated that it would cost roughly $13 billion its first five years. Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said it would employ about 20,000 people, including military and civilian workers.

That high cost that could doom the Space Force, at least for the time being. "Even a lot of the people who are advocates for doing a Space Force are concerned that the way the department goes about creating another service could kind of 'gold-plate' the idea and lead to something that is too costly and beyond what is needed," Hunter told the Examiner.

That's probably a good thing. Reason's Christian Britschgi has pointed out that some of Trump's own defense advisers—like Defense Secretary James Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson—have previously opposed the idea.

And rightly so. The U.S. military already has plenty of entities that deal with space, including the Air Force Space Command, which employs about 36,000 people. Is there really a need to make the Space Command larger, or to add to the alphabet soup of government agencies?

Plus, even without the Space Force, the Pentagon wastes about $125 billion a year on administrative inefficiencies. That number will likely just go up with the addition of a sixth branch of the military.

That's not all. As Britschgi wrote:

A huge new military bureaucracy dedicated to space would inevitably have to draw from the same talent pools that our burgeoning private space industry does. Every engineer, scientist, or pilot recruited into the Space Force means one fewer civilian figuring out how to send tourists to low earth orbit, to create research bases on Mars, or to set up strip mines on the moon.

There are a host of reasons why the Space Force is a bad idea. If yesterday's election results doom the plan or even just put it on hold, then that's probably for the best.

Photo Credit: Eugen Dobric/Dreamstime.com

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  • BYODB||


    But with Democrats about to hold a majority in the House of Representatives, the Space Force might be put on hold.


    Uhh...it's a myth that Democrats don't have hard-on's for bombing people. If they can do it from space, they'd be even happier since that way their proxy wars and robot wars would be almost entirely unreported. You know, exactly like they are today.


    The air force already has a space vehicle, and no we don't know what's on board the X-37B and it's been up there for quite some time now.

  • Sevo||

    "Uhh...it's a myth that Democrats don't have hard-on's for bombing people."

    Yeah, but Trump proposed this effort.

  • BYODB||

    Yeah, and George W. Bush went to war with Iraq with the full blessing and consent of Democrats. So what? They know the media will completely cover for them by blaming Republicans.

  • Bubba Jones||

    They then campaigned against Iraq and Afghanistan... oh.

    They'll just bundle the space force within the air force.

  • BYODB||

    Exactly Bubba. They vote for a thing, even overwhelmingly vote for a thing, then turn around and campaign against the Republicans being for that thing. As if they never were for it. And, of course, they always get a get out of jail free card on that from the media.

    That's why people, to this day, maintain that 'Bush lied to Congressional Democrats'. No, he didn't, they saw the same evidence he did. It's a fucking joke.

  • CE||

    PRobably Hitler.

  • CE||

    For the best, until the Alien Armada shows up and we're totally unprepared.

    Alien Armada, cool name for a band?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I am not saying that Trump proposed this Space Force because of aliens, but he proposed it because of aliens.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    SPACE FORCE FUCK YEAH

  • Uncle Jay||

    America needs a space force because, uh...umm...that is...well... because... American have too much money, and its best to give all that excess capital to our ruling elites so they can buy that third vacation home in the Caymans. Otherwise Americans might get stupid and purchase trivial items they don't really need, like food, clothing, medicine, etc. What a waste of money that would be.

  • BYODB||

    Well, it's true that just dropping a large enough rock from orbit is probably cheaper than a nuke...just for example.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Sure, but you have to get them up there in the first place.

    Unless... moon rocks.

  • BYODB||

    Unless...you make a satellite that crushes and compacts other satellites and forms them into the correct shape...lord knows there's enough of them up there. Failing that, yes, just find rocks in space. It's cheaper.

  • Ken Shultz||

    One thing less interesting than Starfleet Academy Space Force is articles about Space Force.

    Isn't it just another attempt to make Trump look like a dope? You just end up making yourself silly by taking this shit literally in the first place.

    You think you're slaying dragons? It's like that guy playing light saber on YouTube.

  • Dillinger||

    >>> It's like that guy playing light saber on YouTube.

    that's cold, Ken.

  • Angelique||

    You mean we don't get a Death Star???

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  • Sigivald||

    A separate Space Force, meanwhile, would indeed come at a high price. A September Pentagon memo estimated that it would cost roughly $13 billion its first five years. Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said it would employ about 20,000 people, including military and civilian workers.

    And would it cost noticeably less if not a "separate" force?

  • Headache||

    The U.S. military already has plenty of entities that deal with space, including the Air Force Space Command, which employs about 36,000 people. Is there really a need to make the Space Command larger, or to add to the alphabet soup of government agencies?

    Fuck! I guess reassignment is out of the question, eliminating 16,000 positions just isn't Libertarian enough!

  • JeremyR||

    Eh, it's inevitable that an asteroid large enough to wipe out civilization will hit Earth.

    You can bury your head in the sand mock the space force, but that won't save you.

  • JoeB||

    Too early for a Space Force. Wait till private enterprise solves a few problems, develops an efficient and profitable space presence first. Then government will stick its guns in, insist on several ethnic quotas, and demand its cut.

  • Kivlor||

    I know you really want to obstruct it, but there's no going back. Trump is going to form the Space Marines, and he will be the God-Emperor.

  • Bob Straub||

    What would a Space Force do?

    From the Wikipedia article on it, the Outer Space Treaty (to which the U.S. is a party) "exclusively limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for testing weapons of any kind, conducting military maneuvers, or establishing military bases, installations, and fortifications (Article IV). However, the treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons in orbit and thus some highly destructive attack strategies such as kinetic bombardment are still potentially allowable."

    Is a satellite a "celestial body," once launched?

    Maybe conventional weapons could be placed in space, but they couldn't be tested.

    Unconventional weapons like kinetic bombardment could not be tested before use, either.

    The treaty, as described, would prevent defense in space from attacks by extraplanetary forces, too.

    It would appear that any group from the Armed Services put into space for military purposes would also be forbidden.

    But these matters are probably far beyond anything that Trump has thought about on the idea.

  • vek||

    Yeah, we could just pull out. The previous treaties on space were mostly bullshit. They made sense kind of at the time, in the context of the cold war, and what technology was around... But we need new treaties that cover stuff today.

    Things like clarifying private ownership of celestial bodies, like asteroids. The fact that THERE WILL be weapons of war in space. Etc. It's unavoidable, so why pussy foot around? Just demand everybody come to the table to void previous ones, and agree to a new one. If they don't like it, they can fuck off.

  • vek||

    There's nothing wrong with us dominating in space... Private stuff needs to keep doing its thing, but the needs of government ops in space differ slightly. So we do need to throw some more money at this, lest we fall behind.

    It probably doesn't need to be its own agency at this point, between NASA and the Air Force they should be able to keep things humming.

    One of the only reasons I'm remotely okay with the insane amount we spend on defense crap, is that it really DOES trickle through new technology into the private sector. They waste money like drunken sailors, but half of the best new shit in world history has come about because of the military looking to get the upper hand. Since kumbaya world can never exist due to human nature, and since I don't want to be taken over by a foreign power, that therefore means we might as well throw some money at shit.

    Personally I think we should spend more money on R&D, and less money on filling boots on bases all around the world. That gets you nothing new, the R&D at least keeps you ahead of your enemies, and gets new tech invented.

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